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The specified penance, corresponding to the nature and gravity of the sin, prescribed by confessors in the sacrament of penance. These penances were listed in penitential books. Celtic in origin, the earliest canonical lists are ascribed to St. Patrick and date from the fifth century. In time the practice spread throughout Europe. The best known penitential book is that ascribed to Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (602-90).
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.